Guild Hunters 101

I hate my job.

~Evander Hunter

Hi, my name is Evander, and I’ll be your guide to learning everything there is to know about guild mages and the Magical Community as a whole. First things first, they’re all certified nut jobs. That’s right. Nut. Jobs. If you don’t believe me, try to have a conversation with Jeph and see how long it takes you to want to bash your brains in. No, no. I insist. I’ll wait.

How did it go? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So back to guild mages. Let me break it down for you. In Washington State, we have three major guilds competing for dominance.

Why? I dunno. I don’t make the rules; I just follow them.

I kinda like being alive.

So first up, we’ve got my guild, the Cardinal Sun. We’re considered the cream of the crop or whatever. I think we’re a bunch of power-hungry asshats, but that’s just me. No, I’m not power-hungry. I actually got into this mess by some seriously messed up circumstances.

What? You want me to tell you about that?

Fine, but I’m giving you the short version; we’ve got a lot of ground to cover if I’m going to get you caught up on the ins and outs of magic.

Once upon a time, there was a little prince. He had the perfect mother and the most amazing father. Then he got an evil step-brother courtesy of adoption. Well, long story short, the step-brother pretended to be a saint and the whole family fell for it. But that’s beside the point. One day, the mother fell at the hands of an evil witch. A year later, the father died at the hands of rival guild mages. The evil step-brother, six years the prince’s elder, took him in and raised him like his very own—then tricked him into joining the guild.

Membership is for life.

The End.

So, back to guild mages.

In addition to the Cardinal Sun, there are the Sterling Moon and the Bronze Eclipse. All three are responsible for their own region of Washington, but it doesn’t stop them from stepping in on each other’s turfs—especially when it involves the Sibyl. She’s caused a lot of trouble for everyone over the last five years—but more on her later. She may incite trouble at the guilds, but she has nothing to do with the ins and outs of policy.

In general, the concept of guild mages is to have a police force within the Magical Community. What’s the Magical Community? It’s the name for the society of magical people at large. It’s kinda like saying, “the human race,” but only referring to the magical people of the human race. Magical humans—A.K.A. Spellcasters, or Casters, for short—are everywhere. No matter where you go, you will find someone who has magic, whether that be your average witch or mage (magical citizens, more or less), your guild mages or coven witches (your police force and practitioners of magic), or those who would do others harm (Casters deemed “rogues”).

It’s rogues whom the guilds are meant to police.

Because it was deemed that Norms—the non-magical humans of the world—absolutely cannot know about magic for fear of them starting a war with us (or starting up witch hunts again), we guild mages are meant to hunt and detain—and in some cases, execute—the rogue Casters who break guild laws.

Guild laws are fairly simple and straightforward:

  1. Don’t use your magic to harm anyone—mage, witch, or otherwise.
  2. Don’t expose your magic to Norms.
  3. No illegal magic (anything that harms others or is sinister in nature; i.e. hex and curse magic).

That’s basically it. So long as you’re not hurting someone or imposing on other’s rights, then you’re fine. The issue is, so many people don’t follow these rules. I dunno why not, but some people just think they are above the law. Or they are trying to make a profit. Or some other reason. But they always believe their misdeeds will go unnoticed. But they don’t. We always find out.

Always.

Now, not all mages are made the same, and not all guild mages are the same rank. Let’s start with mages and magic.

What’s A Mage?

A mage is typically male in gender, but it’s not unheard of to meet female mages—just like it’s not unheard of to meet male witches. The difference is the power they wield. For example, mages use their magic externally. They can lob magical energy blasts and often use their magic to learn offensive and defensive spells.

We’re essentially one-trick ponies, specializing in one type of magic and occasionally learning a secondary type of magic. This doesn’t happen too often, considering if one doesn’t have the magical ability or the aptitude for the magic, it can’t be learned. There are sometimes mages who specialize and have elemental magic, however.

What’s An Elemental?

Elemental magic is both common and rare. No one is born with elemental magic; it’s gifted to them by the gods—or so people say. I believe it though, but there’s a reason for that.

I, myself, have elemental air magic.

The memory is distant and hazy, but when I was a boy, a voice spoke to me. I don’t know who or what it was, but it spouted some nonsense to me and then I suddenly had the ability to feel the air. And I’m not talking like feeling a breeze on my skin. I mean I could sense it. I could tell when it was happy or sad, when it was ready to rage and storm or be calm and docile. When I finally came into my magic at age thirteen, I could control the air.

Anyways, since we suck at life—I mean, lack diversity in magic—mages supplement their shortcomings with spells, charms, and incantations.

What’s A Witch?

A witch is someone who uses magic internally. Often, witches use prayer magic to conduct spells and rituals. Any magic they give out, they cycle back into themselves by the end of their praying or ritual. They use conduits to channel their magic, such as prayer candles or specific crystals and stones. They use moon and sun magic and even the equinox and solstice to strengthen their spells and magic. Their magic is typically used for peace, luck, protection, healing, and other calm and friendly things.

Witches are amazing people in general, but I’ve met a few hex and curse witches in my time. They take that same beautiful magic and distort it, summoning negligent and malignant spirits and dark magic to harm others. It’s a shame to see such divine magic used in such cruel ways.

And—ack!

“Jeph! You asshat!”

Excuse me guys, I’ve got a mage to go throttle.

“Get back here!”

***

Welcome back to Guild Mages for Dummies—I mean 101.

Last time we talked about a brief intro to guilds and the differences between mages and witches. Today, we’ll look at guild structure. There’s a hierarchy within the guilds. I’d like to say I’m at the bottom—because in no way did I wish to move up the ladder—but I didn’t get a say in any of that.

The Council

The Council is made up of five top-ranked mages within the guild. These are the best of the best and usually the most ruthless in battle. They are usually chosen for their skills as a Hunter, for their magic, or for what they bring to the table. They operate under a voting system in order to make decisions.

Their ranking titles in order are:

  1. Guildmaster
  2. Second Seat Councilmember
  3. Third Seat Councilmember
  4. Fourth Seat Councilmember
  5. Fifth Seat Councilmember

Elite Hunters

After the Council, there are the Elite Hunters. I hate to say it, but this is where I’m ranked. Yup. I’m the top tier short of being on the Council. But you’re probably wondering why being an Elite bothers me.

Well, I’ll tell you why: Elites are assassins. That’s right, assassins.

Elites do what regular Hunters don’t: They are assigned a dangerous target and are sent to kill them—with or without proof of the crimes they are being accused of. Nine times out of ten, they’re guilty. It makes you wonder about the tenth.

Hunters

Underneath Elites, there are the regular Hunters. While Elites work individually on assignments, Hunters work in squads of four. Sometimes, they’re assigned to an Elite Hunter, although not all Elites are responsible for a squad—I’m not. When assigned to an Elite, they work as a team of five on middle-rank missions. They are tasked with general policing of the Magical Community and patrol certain parts of the city to look for anything suspicious. Sometimes, all it takes to deter rogues is the presence of guild mages.

Hunters are also employed in Norm government agencies and other such places—like actual police stations and fire departments. This is to stop information leaks as quickly as possible. Such as, say a Norm calls the police about a magical disturbance. The call would be handled by a Hunter, and they would be sure to discredit it as quickly as possible by contacting the guild, allowing us to tamper with the scene and catch the rogue as quickly as possible.

Hunter Instructors

Next down the chain are the Hunter Instructors. They are the teachers at the guild. Think of the guild as a sort of boarding school for young mages, barracks and everything. Boys ages thirteen to fifteen are given lodging if they choose to become guild mages. They train until they are fifteen before they are allowed to become Hunters.

When I was a boy, I used to live in the barracks myself. Most Hunters are required to live in the guild until they are eighteen. While I didn’t stick around, there are actually several Hunters who are much older than me who choose to live in the barracks as opposed to paying rent. I don’t blame them; Seattle is expensive. But those who have families often opt to live on their own terms.

Training Hunters

And that leaves the Training Hunters, the boys ages thirteen to fifteen who take classes about magical energy, potions, spells, charms, hexes, curses, and train in combat and weaponry. No, we don’t use guns—are you nuts? Magical energy and gunpowder don’t mix. Swords, daggers, axes, lances, on and on—that’s what we use.

Some Hunters choose to only classify in one weapon. Some choose to become proficient in many. Either way, we’re trained with each weapon and how to best deflect blows from various fighting styles and weapons types. I, myself, prefer my battleax to other weapons, but I’m trained to proficiency in all classes.

Anyway. That’s the guild hierarchy. Join me next time for more information about the Magical Community and guild mages.

***

It’s that time again—time to sit down, shut up, and listen. Or don’t. Whatever. It’s not like I care. I’m just here.

Anyway…

Last time, we covered the guild structure. Today, we’ll look at magic, spells, and rituals. As a bonus, I might even tell you about curses, hexes, potions, and wards—if I feel like it.

So the basic of all basics is that, in order to use any of the above, one must have magical energy. That’s right, genius, you would need to be a Caster to use magic. What’s magical energy? Come on guys, were you raised in a back alley in Seattle?

Let me break it down:

Magical Energy

Magical energy is the magical essence that Casters possess. Some believe magical ability depends on age, gender, and/or affinities held. Since no two humans are alike and elementals are created at random, we really haven’t been able to verify the legitimacy of those theories. Regardless, every Caster emits a distinct magical energy signature that is able to be sensed by other Casters.

Magic

Magic isn’t magical energy itself. The energy is the stored basis of magic. Magic happens when someone calls on that energy to either perform a spell or ritual—or any disbursement of magical energy outside the body. So gathering magical energy into one’s palm is one use of magic, even if it’s not used for anything. On a side note, mages will oftentimes do this and throw it at an assailant to blast or stun them—it really, really doesn’t feel good, in case you’re wondering.

Spells & Rituals

The key difference between spells and rituals is that a spell may or may not require an incantation but a ritual absolutely does. In addition to requiring an incantation, a ritual requires invocation tools, such as charms, crystals, candles, moonlight, sunlight, athame, or herbs, to name a few.

Spellwork is willing your magical energy to do a task, such as picking a lock or changing the size of an item to be larger or smaller. At first, you’ll need to speak an incantation to tell your magic what to do, but with practice, you’ll be able to speak the words in your mind instead of out loud. Silence and efficiency are important in a Hunter’s line of work.

For rituals, you serve as the magical energy source to power the tools, herbs, and materials gathered. Because rituals rely on your intention to carry out your spellwork, the incantation is important. The simplest thought, “I want to beat my opponent,” is so ambiguous, there’s no telling what mischief the magic might cause while completing the task. The less focused your intentions and directions, the more magical energy the ritual could steal from you—if it takes too much, you’ll die.

If you couldn’t tell, rituals are much bigger than daily spellwork and require more attention to detail on the Spellcaster’s part. Regardless, all magic should be taken seriously—it’s all dangerous if not used properly. Not just dangerous…a lack in focus or an inability to direct your intention could take an innocent spell or ritual and turn it into a dark, insidious disaster.

Curse vs Hex

Speaking of insidious, that brings us to rogue magical practices. Curses are jinx magic that requires either a spell or ritual but no dark magic. A hex is dark magic itself and requires the Caster to acquire dark objects and/or wield dark magic. Jinxes are wishing physical pain or emotional distress to ail someone. They’re considered torture magic and are forbidden by the guilds. There are other minor jinxes, such as wishing general misfortune on others, but they are still considered illegal and will be punished. Hexes are anything and everything that interferes either with a person’s free will or leads to chronic illness…or death. Oftentimes, hexes require blood rituals or sacrifices.

There are no trials for those practicing dark magic. Elite Hunters, like myself, are sent in to capture or kill on sight. In cases of capture, it’s in order to gain intel on their illegal practices—especially those working in cults. Because dark rogues are dangerous, we’re allowed to defend ourselves to the full extent of guild law. It’s rare that an Elite Hunter is able to retrieve a captive alive, although it does happen from time to time…

Potions

Potions are crafted out of everything from herbs to crystal dust and are imbued with magical essence, making them effective with or without a spell. Depending on what type of potion you’re using, they are effective without magical energy. In other words, a Norm could use something as mundane as a healing potion or as dangerous as an explosion potion. Even without magic, these potions are effective, but adding an incantation—or even just having magical energy—will make them even more powerful.

What’s a Ward?

While we’re on the subject of what magic can do, let’s review wards. Wards are magically created objects that serve a single purpose. We have everything from shielding wards to protection wards. They are, in essence, a charm-piece but on a grander scale. They can be as small as a pebble or as big as a mountain depending on their purpose. For example, my home is covered with protection wards to keep unregistered people from entering without my permission.

Wards are created using alchemy, a subset of magical ability that allows someone to build wards using chemistry, magic, and other components. I can’t say I fully understand it since I don’t have an aptitude for alchemy. We have several incredible alchemists at the guild, though, which has made the Cardinal Sun the leading guild in Washington State.

But you know what they say about power…it comes with a giant ego and a need to subjugate the opposition.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today.

See ya next time…

***

Today, we were going to go over some of the equipment in the guild’s training room, but I made the mistake of failing to sense Jeph’s presence. When I rounded the corner, I bumped into him. And now, here we are, standing on this mat, my fist throbbing from clocking him in the jaw. I don’t think I’ve felt something this satisfying in a long, long time.

The dick had it coming.

As always, he used his magic to keep himself on his feet, standing in front of me, his dark, brown eyes twinkling with his joy. One thing I can say about him: that dude is one cracked nut. He didn’t let me hit him because he was giving me a cheap shot, he did it because the sick S.O.B. likes pain.

“Good one,” he says, cracking his knuckles. “Let the games begin.”

My heart drops into my ass.

Why did I agree to this?

It’s too late now; I should’ve hit him and run. It’s what he would’ve done if he was me, but he isn’t me. I’m me…and I’m about to hate that I am.

Jeph never holds back in a fight.

His fist lands in my gut and I fall forward with the impact, wheezing. It hurts like a bitch, but I throw my head up, the back of my skull cracking against his jaw. His teeth click together, and my vision momentarily goes black from impact. We stumble away from each other, but it takes mere seconds before we’re flying at each other again, magery making our muscles move faster than humanly possible.

My fist sails past his head, but I spin out of the way when he tries the same. He grabs my shirt, pulling me forward. I duck at the last second, his fist flying over my head as he goes off balance. I ram my shoulder into his ribs and I think I hear something crack. I don’t have time to think about it. His foot crashes against my knee and I fall to the floor.

We stare at each other, chests heaving.

“Nice counter,” he breathes.

“Didn’t do…much good,” I return.

He grins, blood coating his teeth and a crazy gleam in his dark eyes.

I jump to my feet, barely getting my footing and my arms crossed in front of me before his fist makes contact. He pulls back and, thinking he’s gonna strike again, I duck, intending to sweep his feet. Instead, his knee comes up. Not only do I not knock him down, I hear my nose crunch long before I feel it.

My vision goes white, my body responding faster than my nerves. Then the agony of it sets in, and my eyes feel like they are about to pop. Blood drains down my throat, choking me.

“Jesus!” Jeph hisses, squatting down in front of me and grabbing my face. He tilts it from side to side as he examines the damage. It must be bad if he’s stopping. This is far from the worst injury he’s ever given me.

“Iam figne,” I attempt to say, pulling his hands away. He’s probably worried about the paperwork he’ll have to do to report my injury.

He raises an imperious brow. “Not sure I caught that. Did you say, ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m nine?’”

I glare, but it’s wasted on him. Irritated, I call on my element, blasting him away with air. Rather, I try to blast him away. All I seem to do is startle him. Besides magery, we’re not supposed to use magic in battle.

Tsk, tsk.” He wags his finger at me. “Evander’s being naughty, breaking the rules.”

Scowling, I pull more magic to me, feeling it tingle along my arm and hand. It’s like pins and needles, like sparks dancing over my flesh. It’s like reaching into a raging storm and wrapping my hand around a bolt of lightning. I grin when air caresses my palm, eagerly begging to be guided, directed, unleashed. I have no qualms giving air what it wants.

I blast Jeph again, and this time, he stumbles backward, but he’d been expecting it, having felt me gathering magical energy. Now he’s gathering his energy. It’s going to be a real fight. No pins to win. This is a battle. I just hope we don’t bring the guild down on our heads.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Jeph lobs a dense, black ball of magic at me. I dive for the ground, smacking my battered nose against the mat. Moron! my mind hisses as I choke on blood, pain, and air. I struggle to rise to my feet, white-hot agony blinding me. While I’m rising, Jeph’s foot catches me in the gut, and I flip, end over end, along the mat. I’d been short of breath before, but now I am actively channeling my element into my lungs. I’d be dying right now if I wasn’t an elemental.

Jeph helps me to my feet…my shirt firmly gripped in one first, the other aimed at my face. If he wants my nose to stay broken that bad, he’s going to have to work for it. Before he can land the blow, I use magery and my element to push my speed past the point of possibility, ducking and dodging around him, putting a roundhouse kick in the back of his head, catching his jaw ’cause the dumbass had been turning his head to track me. He flies forward, and it’s satisfying to watch his palms touch down on the mat.

He pushes himself to his feet and turns to face me, spitting and wiping his thumb along the blood dribbling down his lip. “That’s twice you’ve made me bleed.”

I don’t like the gleam in his eye; it’s menacing.

I’m about to regret my whole life.